Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on November 3, 2008


typewriter3          From my perspective, one of the most amazing aspects of the 2008 American Presidential Election is the way it has radically engaged so many of my students in politics.  I certainly wasn’t alive during 1960, and don’t remember 1992 all that well, so my frame of reference may be limited, but I know this – I’ve never experienced anything quite like the campus energy that has been generated by Barack Obama’s candidacy.  Almost every class period, our discussions of Chicago history have a way of either working through or reflecting light upon modern political events, and often our deliberations will spill over the allotted time and out into the hallway.  In these situations, students tend to ask me how they can continue to learn more about the world, and wonder whether or not it would be worthwhile to subscribe to one of America’s outstanding newspapers.  To them, I always respond with one idea: subscribe to The Economist.

          Now, truth be told, this country has several fine daily newspapers – and if students had the time and the energy, I would recommend that they read both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal cover to cover every day to achieve a balanced perspective on world events.  These papers are full of worthwhile information, and the quality of the writing they contain often puts many modern novelists to shame.  But alas, collegians are busy with life’s other required reading – which includes everything from Medieval History to the Facebook profiles of their friends.  Plus, as a professor of literature, I’d feel a little strange asking my students to keep up with reading that I can’t even tackle.  So after years of seeing stacks of each of these newspapers pile up on my coffee table to serve as perpetually unread decorations, I finally gave up on the idea that a busy student could possibly stay current with 100 pages of daily news.  Luckily for us, The Economist exists.  Due to the brevity of the articles, the dedication to international perspective, the weekly nature of the “paper,” and the commitment on the behalf of the editorial staff to a team writing style that produces well-balanced editorial content, The Economist is the perfect way to stay up to date with world events without turning your life wholly over to four hours of daily non-coursework related reading.  In a given week, by finding five and ten minute-stretches here and there, it is completely possible to monitor everything from the genocide in Darfur to the machinations behind the fixing of world crude oil prices.  In a way, The Economist is sort of like a set of weekly spark-notes to the world.

          As I’ve made clear in earlier lessons, I believe it is the responsibility of each of us in this system of democracy to exercise to the fullest of our ability the call to help govern.  Certainly, this is most often manifested in our ability to vote.  Tomorrow, voters will have the ability to comment on everything from the decriminalization of prostitution in San Francisco to clean energy referenda in a multitude of states.  But in order to do our jobs properly, we must stay well-informed.  So, as the holidays roll around this winter, and your parents ask you what you’d like for Christmas or Hanukah, include on your list a subscription to The Economist.  Not only will this request surprise them, but it will also make them proud that their tuition dollars are doing good work.  In fact, they may even be so pleased with your progress as a human that they will find a little extra money to get you both that new North Face jacket that you wanted and all of those Kanye West albums that will keep your iPod banging all spring long.  

12 Responses

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  1. LU said, on November 4, 2008 at 2:19 am

    My dear husband, ever the Economist enthusiast, stated that I MUST mention the fact that with every Economist print subscription you also get free access to their weekly podcasts. Essentially, you can put your paper copy of the Economist wherever it’s most convenient for you to catch five or ten minutes of reading time (the kitchen table is a favorite at our house, along with the ever popular bathroom) and upload the electronic content to your Ipod. Then you can listen to ten or fifteen minutes of news when Kanye’s gotten too old or while you’re waiting for your bus or walking to ECON 2009 at 7:45 a.m. Best of both worlds.

  2. Carlin said, on November 4, 2008 at 4:30 am

    Don’t even get me started on Prop K…

  3. Barry H said, on November 4, 2008 at 4:41 am

    LU: Tell your hubby good work on pointing out the podcast content of the Economist. It’s such a rad publication! And yes, I keep mine in the cabinet under the bathroom sink as well.

  4. UVA Mike said, on November 4, 2008 at 5:03 am

    Big Day Tomorrow in both your state and mine, Wiz! And while we may disagree about politics (here’s hoping McCain surprises and takes both Virginia and Missouri…and about 8 other toss-up states that maps have currently painted blue), we can agree on the economist. Just bought my first copy like 6 months ago and I am definitely a big believer.

  5. drwizard said, on November 4, 2008 at 5:22 am


    So you’re not a fan of legalized prostitutes walking down your street?

  6. Carlin said, on November 4, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Ahem. Surprisingly (or not), I had to talk Gerard into this one…

  7. Green Wave Fever said, on November 4, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Aren’t you overlooking the Mattoon Journal-Gazette, Dr. Wizard?

  8. Green Wave Fever said, on November 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    …that’s the ONLY place I’ll ever turn for breaking news.

  9. Greece Lightning said, on November 4, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    It doesn’t seem like the Wiz usually misses much, but I think it should be pointed out that The Economist is not a magazine that really has anything to do with economics. The title is just confusing.

    Dr. Wizard, how many times have you been able to vote so far today?

  10. drwizard said, on November 4, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    good point, greece. Unfortunately, I was only able to vote 4 times today, mostly because I only had 3 different fake mustaches and electricity bills for 3 of the registered voters who have passed away since the primary…joke.

  11. MS said, on November 5, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    I purchased a newsstand copy of The Economist yesterday to see if subscribing would be a good idea for me. I find that I cannot keep up with my New Yorker subscription because of the heavy reading volume my work requires, so I was apprehensive about subscribing to another weekly. That said, The Economist is replacing The New Yorker in my bathroom.

    Useful post…

    I hope parents reading through this blog to see what kind of advice someone referring to himself as Dr. Wizard is giving their potentially confused, questioning, and developing (socially, intellectually) children will rest assured that college professors (despite our often left-leaning world view – and sometimes curmudgeonly approach) do hope to influence our students to become well-informed independent thinkers…and sometimes suggesting a little less cologne, or aiming for third place, or even rooming with the crazy kid from Detroit who might influence you to drop out of school for a few years to pursue a rap career is just as important as suggesting they should read The Economist. In fact, parents, if this is advice you weren’t privy to in college, you should probably subscribe to The Economist as well so you can talk about issues with your kids, because in the end, there isn’t much better than the day phone calls between parents and their children become something that is looked forward to on both ends.

  12. Marx said, on November 14, 2008 at 8:31 am

    The Economist is libertarian propaganda that supported the very deregulation that caused us to arrive at the mess we are in today!

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